Visiting Dublin: my 5 favourite places

I’m baaaaaack! After a brief (ahem) hiatus, I’ve decided to bring myself kicking and screaming into 2017 with a new blog. And what better to write about than the city I’ve called home for almost – gulp – a decade?

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that most of the time you don’t appreciate what’s on your doorstep and, even though I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the place worthy of an Albert Hammond Jr track, writing this post about Dublin and just picking out the pics really did make me see Dublin through the eyes of a tourist and appreciate it a little bit more. Which was nice.

While these things are far from new and might be unoriginal to staunch Dubliners, I’ve met lots of people who live in Dublin for years who haven’t been to at least one of them.

Whether you’re visiting for a wild weekend or you’ve lived here your whole life, here’s my 5 favourite places and things to do in Dublin:

  1. EAT – Blazing Salads

Well, of course I’m starting with food – what did you expect?! One thing I can guarantee about being vegetarian is that people always ask you for recommendations on where to eat. I recommend Blazing Salads. Every. Time. The food is so good I know countless non-veggies who flock to this Drury Street vegetarian & vegan wholefood deli every day and, while the superfood-packed raw food salad bar is the hotspot, I prefer the hot plate where you can get delish and filling grub ranging from brown rice pasta with kale to an incredible butternut squash-feta cheese bake, and the Grain of the Week means you can stock up on your vitamins, beat the afternoon slump, etc. Bonus points for the fact they always seem to be playing Lana Del Rey. My advice? Ask for a loyalty card ‘cos you WILL be back.

  1. CHILL OUT – Chester Beatty Library

You know how Mila Kunis hides on top of a skyscraper when she needs a breather in Friends With Benefits? Dublin Castle is my skyscraper. Or the Chester Beatty Library to be exact. Hidden away behind the bustle of Dame Street, Dublin Castle houses lots of serious-looking government buildings and from 1204 until 1922 it was the seat of British rule in Ireland (grrrr). Back in the Viking days this was Dublin’s harbour and where the city got its name, Dubh Linn meaning Black Pool. (You can read more about Dublin’s fascinating Viking history here.)

For a rare moment of Zen or at least a bit of perspective, I love the Chester Beatty Library, a pretty impressive private collection of mostly religious artefacts. The Eastern religions section is my favourite and, as unconvincing as this sounds, I always feel a bit more centred and calm after visiting the statue of Kannon and reading about the Four Truths. After your visit head upstairs to the rooftop garden overlooking the Castle and Dubh Linn gardens and take a breather. Can’t stress this enough – I love this place.

  1. NATURE – National Botanic Gardens

As a longtime resident of the North Side, I’ve never gotten the North-South rivalry and will always have a soft spot for areas like Glasnevin and Drumcondra. If you’re blessed with some sunshine while you’re in Dublin, get on the bus and head to the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. With over 300 endangered species from around the world, and 6 species already extinct in the wild, it’s ecotherapy at its finest. There’s a couple of Victorian-looking glasshouses including the Great Palm House which feels tropical inside (and makes a great backdrop for Instagram) and for generations of young Dubliners and visitors from home & abroad, the Giant Sequoia is the star attraction. It’s only about 3 miles outside the city but you’d never guess it from the peace and quiet.  Unlike public gardens in other cities, Dublin’s Botanic Garden is free. Sitting on a bench with a good book in hand on a sunny afternoon? Now that’s bliss.

4. ART – Hugh Lane Gallery

From the National Gallery’s incredible Caravaggio exhibition right now to IMMA with its lush gardens and Lucien Freud project, Dublin has no shortage of galleries and exhibitions but my personal favourite is the often overlooked Hugh Lane Gallery just behind the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square. Housed in the gorgeously grand Charlemont House built in 1765, the gallery is home to modern art ranging from Brian Duggan’s neon installation to Louis le Brocquy’s Child in a Yard. If you’ve only got half an hour to spare, head straight to the Francis Bacon studio. The entire contents of Bacon’s actual studio were moved from London in 1998 and all 7000 items have been on display ever since.  A chaotic, almost car crash style glimpse into the mind and creative process of the artist, it’s somewhat shocking but hard to look away.

Finally, just inside the door and to your left you’ll find some of Harry Clarke’s incredible stained glass ‘Eve of St Agnes’ displayed in all its glory. Easily Ireland’s greatest stained glass artist, Clarke’s work is truly magical and, as twee as it sounds, the sheer detail and beauty of each glass panel will stop you in your tracks.

  1. SHOP – Thrifting

One of my best-dressed acquaintances recently told me she occasionally sticks on her runners on a Saturday and walks from the Enable Ireland in Phibsborough to Rathmines, stopping in every charity shop along the way. For the record, that’s a lot of stops, ranging from Oxfam to Barnardo’s, flogging everything from kids’ clothes to antiques.  While I don’t do anything close to that three hour trek, I love nothing more than the occasional snoop around a second hand shop, browsing for hard-to-find books and weird knick-knacks like porcelain cats (oh yes). If you’re stuck for time, the St Vincent de Paul shops on George’s Street and Aungier Street are amazing for books, especially newly published or review copies that have been kindly donated. In fact, I recently nabbed 4 recent-ish paperbacks for €1 for the bunch. Bookworms rejoice!

Go to VisitDublin.com for more ideas and things to do in Dublin or check out #LoveDublin on Instagram. Here’s some random pics of other things I love in Dublin:

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